Below is a video of a public reading Jeremiah did for the Ligonier Valley Writers, presenting his first prize winning flash fiction.
The sound of a drip awoke me, but my eyes only opened slightly. I could move them around, but the rest of my body remained inert. I hated these episodes. I’d dealt with sleep paralysis intermittently for as long as I could remember. It felt like being trapped somewhere between a dream and the waking world. At the edge of my vision, illuminated in bright red light on my bedside table, I could just make out the time as one forty-three. I didn’t have to be up until seven, but I’d happily get up now if I could move.
There were three more drips, in rapid succession, but when I surveyed the room, I couldn’t determine their source. The television on my dresser was off, I wasn’t aware of any leaky areas in my apartment, and my fiancée was out of town for the weekend, visiting her parents. There was another drip, and this time the direction seemed more definite. I turned my eyes to the window. The Venetian blinds almost completely obscured the view outside. We tried to keep them closed because we lived in a first-floor apartment next to the complex’s parking lot. No one wants to deal with nosey neighbors. Before heading to bed, I’d left the blinds up a tiny bit to see what the weather would be doing in the morning. The forecast said a big spring snowstorm had a fifty percent chance of burying the area. There was the drip again, but now it sounded more like a peck. Maybe a bird was perching on the windowsill? I looked at the gap, exposed by the open blinds.
A shadowy figure leered in at me with bright yellow eyes. It tapped on the glass with a freakishly long, ink-colored finger.
I screamed, but my enfeebled body only produced a low whimper. My heart rate tripled. I tried to close my eyes, but I couldn’t make them shut in my current state. All I wanted to do was dash out of bed and lock myself in the windowless bathroom, where it wouldn’t see me. I could hear my own breath coming out faster. There was another tap on the glass. I tried to ignore it by looking at my clock and focusing on the familiarity of it, but my heart maintained it’s jarring pace. If only I could get a deep breath, I might be able to calm down and make sense of the thing outside my window. I’m probably just hallucinating. I’d heard stories from other people who saw shadow figures when they went through sleep paralysis. I hadn’t ever seen one before, but there was a first time for everything. It must be a product of my dream addled mind. I took my eyes off the clock and looked back at the window.
The figure remained. Its yellow eyes contained a murky ring of red inside them. It’s not there. I’m just trapped in a half dream. As if in response to my realization, the thing stopped tapping. Its eyes seemed to lock onto mine. I started to look away, but it revealed a smile filled with skeletal fingers where teeth should have been. The fingers emerged from the mouth and began opening and closing, like someone demonstrating an explosion with their hands. Each movement of the fingers resulted in a horrendous cracking sound as the joints moved. It began to leave, and its midnight black body vanished from view. How long until my heart’s palpitations sent me into cardiac arrest? It had to be a dream, a fucked-up piece of my subconscious given form. Another sound made me pause mid-thought. Was that my front door rattling?
I shot up in bed, freed from my nightmare at last. Gasps came to me rapidly as my body finally enabled me to physically manifest the panic I’d been feeling. My hands shook as I raised them to my sweat-drenched hair.
“Just a dream,” I said.
A loud creek filled my apartment. It was the sound of my bedroom door slowly opening. A burst of frigid air rushed at me. I heard cracking joints and looked up to see the thing from my dream staring at me. It stood on the threshold. Behind it, I could see my front entrance smashed to pieces. Inky sludge trailed where it had walked in.
It flew forward, like a gust of smoke, and the fingers of its mouth were on my face before I could react. I struggled to pull it off, but its slimy skin burned my hands. I screamed into the thing’s mouth but felt my cry muffled by a gritty tasting appendage. My body instinctively tried to puke it out, and I leaped off the bed, but the skeletal fingers only dug deeper into my flesh. I tried to breathe through my nose, but I felt myself starting to grow faint. Was this how I died? I fought back up to my feet. All at once the fingers released their grip on my face, and the thing removed itself from my throat. It flew backward, to the doorway, as fast as it had assaulted me. A coal colored arm stuck out of its mouth, surrounded by bony digits. In the arm’s hand, I saw a bloody red pulp. My mind struggled to make sense of it. Then I saw the grotesque crimson heap pulse, squirting out gore, and my brain filled in the sound of its beat. I felt blood welling up in my mouth as a terrible pain emanated from my chest. The thing’s hand began squishing the organ in its grip, and then the entire arm retracted inside the body.
From somewhere deep in the thing’s mouth, I heard a gurgling voice say, “Feels Tasty.”